November 06, 2014
Infrastructure and Mega Projects
Another major milestone has been crossed in implementing Bangladesh’s largest infrastructural project to date, the Padma Bridge. The government has signed an agreement worth US$49.5 million with a Korean consortium for supervising the consultancy work of the mega project. Padma Bridge is one of the current government’s prioritized mega projects earmarked for fast track implementation within its current tenure. The deal, effective for 5 years, was signed between Bangladesh’s Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges and Korean Expressway Group comprising seven companies.
Renowned British architects John McAslan and Partners have been awarded the contract for designing stations for the first phase of the metro rail transit (MRT) network in Dhaka. The $2.8 billion mega project would be divided into eight ‘contract packages (CP)’ for easy implementation. Tenders would be floated for various construction works from next year and the government is hopeful of being able to complete the project by 2019.
Kuwait Petroleum International (KPI), international investment arm of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), has shown interest in building a 10 million tonne per year capacity oil refinery in Bangladesh worth $6 billion. Talks have been initiated in this regard between the two countries as a high-powered delegation led by KPI President and Chief Executive Bakheed Al Rashidi visited Bangladesh last week and met with Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and Board of Investment (BoI).
Growth and Development
According to Bangladesh’s central bank, country's foreign exchange reserves rose to a record high of $22.31 billion at the end of October 2014, up from $21.84 billion a month ago. This represents a substantial growth from $17.35 billion in October 2013, and are enough to cover expenses for almost seven months of imports. In a related development, inward remittances into Bangladesh rose by 12.21% in the first four months of the current fiscal year (July-October) compared to same period last fiscal year. Bangladesh is one of the world’s top ten remittance receiving countries.
Germany will provide Bangladesh €211 million for bilateral technical and financial cooperation. The pledge was made at the concluding day of the two-day biannual negotiations on development cooperation between Bangladesh and Germany held last week. The funds will be made available in three priority areas: "Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency", "Good Governance/Rule of Law/Human Rights" and "Adaptation to Climate Change in Urban Areas".
Bangladesh has successfully installed 3 million solar home systems (SHSs) over the past few years. Bangladesh has one of the fastest installation rates of SHSs around the world. Owing to the success, the government now aims to install 3 million more SHSs in the next 3 years. To ensure electricity for all by 2021, the government aims to increase its power generation capacity to 24,000 MW, of which 10% would come from renewable energy sources, including solar power.
Trade and Investment
Bangladesh delegation led by Industries Minister highlighted the investment potentials existing in Bangladesh at the 2nd “Partnership to Scale Up Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development Conference” held on 4-5 November at Vienna, Austria organized by the United Nation’s International Development Organization (UNIDO). The delegation highlighted the investment opportunities and facilities that exist in Bangladesh to attract more foreign direct investment in the industrial sector of the country.
Finland will soon send a high-powered trade and investment delegation to Dhaka to explore the areas of opportunities that exist between the two countries. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö conveyed the message when newly appointed Bangladesh Ambassador to Sweden and Nordic countries, M Golam Sarwar, met the President to present his credentials. Finland wants to expand its trade ties with Bangladesh considering the stable political environment and progress the latter has made in areas like infrastructure development.
Agriculture and Food Security
Bangladesh government has undertaken a $70.8 million project to give further boost to agricultural production in the greater Sylhet region. The project aims to extend agricultural activities by over 86,000 metric tonnes a year through proper utilization of ground and surface water and developing necessary irrigation infrastructures. Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) under the Ministry of Agriculture will implement the project by June 2019 with domestic funds.
According to preliminary forecasts by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Aman rice production in Bangladesh for the current season stands at 19.7 million tonnes, slightly above last year’s same season bumper crop. This increase is due to an increase in the area planted coupled with higher yields due to the good rains during the season and increased use of improved seeds. Under current expectations, FAO tentatively forecasts the 2014 aggregate rice production (including Aus, the ongoing Aman and forthcoming Boro seasons) at 52.5 million tonnes, up 2% from the 2013 output.
Conservation and Environmental Protection
The Swatch of No Ground, a submarine canyon in the Bay of Bengal known as a hotspot for cetaceans, has been declared Bangladesh's first “marine protected area” by the government. The declaration covers 1,738 square kilometers area, with an average depth of 900 meters, located in the south of Dublar Char. The announcement officially restricts fishing and other offshore commercial and any form of unauthorized activities in the area, which is known for acting as a spawning and breeding ground of many endangered oceanic species of the Bay and Indian Ocean.
Bangladesh government has announced a set of incentives to the tanners for relocating their factories from Dhaka's Hazaribagh area to Savar Tannery Estate at the outskirts of city. The incentives are in line with the government's initiative to relocate the tanneries from the capital city to the specially developed zone where apart from the leather industry getting all forms of specialized support, less pollution would be caused due to the custom built facilities.
Digital Bangladesh
Bangladesh government has taken an initiative to conduct all types of import and export related procedures through online system instead of the existing manual system. Apart from the benefits of convenience that digitization offers to budding and established business people, the move would also ensure checking money laundering and fraudulent acts. The new online system for export and import has been named as National Single Window.
Although online automobile trade in Bangladesh is not new as many independent retailers buy and sell through using existing e-commerce platforms, for the first time, Carmudi, a global online car retailer has started operations in Bangladesh. According to the company’s co-founder and MD, Bangladesh’s rapid economic growth and fast growing middle class have brought them here. Already, their localized version has become popular, with more than 400 local retailers teaming up with them.
Bangladesh Awami League